The PALO project (2017-2022) explored the problem of short-termism in public decision-making. The project increased knowledge and understanding concerning the present state of long-term policymaking in Finland, as well as the time horizons of among citizens and policymakers. The project examined various solutions that can reduce short-termism and help consider future generations in democratic decision-making.
The results show that the Finnish political system is relatively capable of long-term decision-making. International commitments and expert influence in particular enhance long-term decision-making. Policymakers are more future-regarding than citizens, but also citizens’ political time horizons are wider than assumed.
Long-term policymaking can be reinforced by consideration of information on the impact of policy decisions, appointing broad-based bodies that work beyond a single electoral term, and increasing the role of deliberative mini-publics in decision-making. Deliberative mini-publics, such as citizens’ panels and juries, are well-suited for addressing complex and far-reaching problems and they can help make legitimate decisions on contested issues.
The project produced more than 100 research articles and numerous books.
The project included multiple pilot projects on citizen participation.
Citizens’ Jury in Korsholm
A Citizens’ Jury on Referendum Options was organized in the municipality of Mustasaari/Korsholm in Finland in 2019. The referendum concerned a contested municipal merger with Vaasa, a decision with concrete long-term consequences. This was the first time the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) process was carried out in Europe, as well as the first time it was organized in the context of a government-initiated (top-down) referendum. The CIR process entails a Citizens’ Jury which formulates a statement summarizing key facts as well as the main arguments for and against the referendum issue. The statement is sent to all voters before the referendum.
The results of this pilot show that Jury’s participants were satisfied with the deliberative process and found it impartial. A large majority of voters in Korsholm had read the Citizen Statement written by the Jury and thought it was a useful and trustworthy source of information.
The statement increased merger-related factual knowledge, issue efficacy and perspective-taking. The statement also increased trust in the Jury and other political actors, including those perceived as being on the ‘other side’. Overall, the results show that CIR-type mini-publics could be used to alleviate distrust in circumstances of political polarization more generally.
Christensen, Henrik Serup; Leino, Mikko; Setälä, Maija; Strandberg. Kim (2022): Knowledge, Trust or Perspectives? A Causal Mediation Analysis of How a Citizens’ Jury Affected Voting Intentions in the General Public. Swiss Political Science Review.
Setälä, Maija; Christensen, Henrik Serup; Leino, Mikko & Strandberg, Kim (2021): Beyond polarization and selective trust – a Citizens’ Jury as a trusted source of information. Politics.
Setälä, Maija; Christensen, Henrik Serup; Leino, Mikko; Strandberg, Kim; Bäck, Maria; Jäske, Maija (2020): Deliberative mini-publics facilitating voter knowledge and judgement: Experience from a Finnish local referendum. Representation.
Satakunta 2050 Citizens’ Assembly
In 2020, an online mini-public was organized to contribute to a long-term regional planning process reaching to the year 2050 in the Satakunta region in South West Finland. The Citizens’ Assembly was organized together with the Regional Council of Satakunta. The goal of the pilot was to engage citizens with a Regional Plan drafting process and acquire citizen opinions about the preferred courses of action regarding the future. The pilot included a field experiment was about the potential of democratic deliberation and separate visualization exercise (namely Future Design) to enhance participants’ future orientation and time perspective.
The results show that democratic deliberation enhanced participants’ capacity to consider future generations’ perspectives and willingness to make sacrifices to ensure their well-being. However, the findings suggest that the mental time travel exercise had only a modest impact on perspective-taking.
Kulha, Katariina; Leino, Mikko; Setälä, Maija; Jäske, Maija & Himmelroos, Staffan (2021): For the Sake of the Future: Can Democratic Deliberation Help Thinking and Caring about Future Generations? Sustainability.
Citizens’ Jury on Climate Actions
In 2021, an online Citizens’ Jury was convened to deliberate on climate actions planned by the Finnish government to reach its targets in reducing Finland’s emissions. The main goal of this pilot was to provide citizens’ input on the fairness of planned climate actions for the Medium-Term Climate Policy Plan. The jury was commissioned by the Climate Policy Roundtable and the Ministry of the Environment, and this was the first nation-wide deliberative mini-public on climate issues in Finland. The task of the Citizens’ Jury was to assess the fairness and effectiveness of the proposed measures pertaining to traffic, housing and food, as well as to draw up a statement on their views.
The results show that the deliberation enabled the formulation of an informed public opinion on the fairness of climate actions. The participants were satisfied with the Jury and expressed the wish that similar forms of participation would be utilised in climate policy in the future. However, participants were uncertain of the policy impacts of the statement.
Kulha, Katariina; Sormunen, Hilma; Leino, Mikko; Setälä, Maija; Taskinen, Mari & Jäske, Maija (2022). Final report of the Citizens’ Jury on Climate Actions. Publications of the Ministry of Enviroment 2022: 2.
Policy briefs and guides
The project produced several policy briefs and practical guides.
Strategic Research Policy brief: Democratic innovations – a cure for semocratic deficits? (9/2021) (pdf)
Publications available in Finnish:
Policy brief: Puntaroivat kansalaiskeskustelut suomalaisen demokratian vahvistajina (Deliberative mini-publics in strengthening Finnish democracy)
Policy brief: Tulevaisuuteen katsova päätöksenteko Suomessa: ongelmat, onnistumiset ja kehittämismahdollisuudet (Future-regarding decision-making in Finland: problems, successes and development potential).
Opas: Moniäänistä ja perusteltua päätöksentekoa: Puntaroivat kansalaiskeskustelut poliittisten kiistokysymysten ratkaisussa (Multivoiced and informed decision-making – deliberative mini-publics in solving controversial political issues).
Policy brief: Aktiivinen kansalaisosallistuminen voi parantaa päätöksenteon laatua (Active citizen participation may improve the quality of decision-making).